Country diary: The water levels are low below this quiet hillside

Country diary: The water levels are low below this quiet hillside

Country diary: The water levels are low below this quiet hillside

St Cleer, Bodmin Moor: To the west is an undulating range of china clay country once known as the Cornish Alps

The view of Siblyback from Tregarrick Tor.

Thu 21 Oct 2021 00.30 EDT

The splashy land of Craddock Moor straddles the watershed between the rivers Fowey and Lynher. On turfy hillocks of early streamworks for tin, the redness of haws, the yellow gorse flowers and pink heather brighten the summit, with its fading bracken and rushy grasses. Adjacent are the remains of an ancient stone circle, dominated by a chimney stack attached to a ruined engine house.

From this vantage point, the sea off Rame Head is a mirror, and traversed by the Brittany ferry from Plymouth. Westward, an undulating range of china clay country, which no longer features the many conical white spoil tips that inspired the name of Cornish Alps.

The boulder-strewn edge of moorland, around Tregarrick Tor, looms over Siblyback Lake – a reservoir that captures three little streams that once flowed directly into a tributary of the Fowey. On top of the granite tor, natural rock basins brim with water – these were once described as devil’s punchbowls, or as virgins’ bidets in France. Here, the broken remains of massive capstones lie about, levered off in the past, worked and split into blocks, then manoeuvred downhill for use as building stone.

An overgrown droveway leads off this quiet hillside towards the reservoir’s busy carpark – a destination for sightseers and regular local visitors. A few walk around the lake on a graded path, overlooked by sheep scattered across green pastures, and with distant tors peeping over nearer hills.

Near the concrete dam, a pair of cormorants perch on the rocks and dry their wings, while another dives for fish close to a gang of floating gulls. The feeder streams to the dam are low and in need of significant rainfall. Near the main inflow, pools reflect the blue sky and scudding clouds; a beach extends around the shallow edges of the lake; and no water flows over the dam’s spillway.

In the brambly verges, the declining autumn sun draws attention to the spoiled blackberries, woven with glistening webs where spiders entrap and bundle up flies.

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